You probably top baked potatoes and potato pancakes with a tablespoon of sour cream, but its uses extend beyond a simple garnish or condiment. Sour cream adds richness and tanginess when substituted on a 1-to-1 basis for mayonnaise in deviled eggs or coleslaw, or for milk in scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes. Made from cream and milk, with lactic acid added for a slight fermentation, sour cream is an essential ingredient to keep on hand.
Dips and Sauces
Classic appetizer dips and salad dressings rely on sour cream for flavor and texture, including spinach and artichoke dip, French onion dip, Greek tzatziki and ranch salad dressing. Tradition also calls for sour cream as the base for sauces to accompany fish tacos and the horseradish sauce to serve over roast beef. Discover new uses by stirring a tablespoon or more of sour cream into any dip or sauce, from pesto to marinara sauce.
If you substitute an equal amount of sour cream for the milk, cream or water called for in cakes, pie, muffins, pancakes and waffles, your baked treats become richer, more flavorful and more moist. The acidity and moisture in sour cream also help when you bake at high altitudes. Patricia Kendall, a Food Science professor at Colorado State University, recommends substituting sour cream for other liquid or adding a few tablespoons to cake recipes to help to keep baked goods moist when you live at a high elevation.
Soups, Entrees and Sides
Certain dishes, such as beef stroganoff and fettuccine Alfredo, wouldn't be the same without a cup of sour cream stirred in and gently heated through before serving; keep the sour cream from curdling by letting it come to room temperature before adding it. Try using sour cream in side dishes too, such as green bean casserole or creamed spinach. Experiment with soups, from butternut squash to fruit soup with sour cream added for thickening, for richness and for taste.
Garnishes and Desserts
Sour cream provides a welcome temperature contrast and richness to hot or spicy foods, such as chili, soups and curries. Add a dollop of sour cream when you serve those dishes, and set a bowl of sour cream on the table so diners can add more if they like. For dessert, top a bowl of fruit or a piece of pie with a spoonful of sour cream instead of yogurt, whipped cream or ice cream.
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- Epicurious: High-Altitude Baking Recipes and Tips
- Colorado State University Extension: High Altitude Food Preparation
- Daisy Brand: Main Dishes
- Photo Credit Iamthatiam/iStock/Getty Images
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